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Thread: Which Milling Machine?

  1. #1

    Default Which Milling Machine?

    Gents: I've been mulling over getting a milling machine for some time and have never pulled the trigger. But I'm about ready to start seriously shopping.

    Basic question: what is the smallest, most cost effective milling machine out there with the envelope and stiffness to do a 1911 out of stainless? I want to do a whole variety of projects, most not firearms related. But the stainless 1911 is to my current understanding the most "demanding" of the projects I have in mind from the perspective of plunge depth, stiffness, envelope etc.

    Prefer a machine that is amenable to later CNC modification. STRONGLY prefer a bench top machine as shop space is ridiculously tight. Have a lathe (12 x 36 1944 Atlas/Craftsman).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    2

    Default Which Milling machine ?

    Look at the RF45 clones , Lathemaster has them in stock (unless they sold out again) Wholesale Tools is where I bought mine . Enco also sells one , but IIRC their price was a bit higher - and there's always Horrible Fright . A pretty big benchtop unit , it weighs in at around 800 pounds . Mine has a 9" X 32" table with 8 and 21 inches travel , respectively . A 1 1/2 hp motor is plenty for what I do .
    I wouldn't hesitate to mill a 1911 frame on this machine , in fact , my youngest son and i have plans to build a couple of AR's on mine - probably from raw forgings , if I can figger out how to cut the mag well properly .
    Snag
    Wannabe Machinist

  3. #3

    Default Free Shiping code for enco

    I have the free frieght code for enco wBJgP just tell the sales rep the code.

    Sonny Moorehouse

  4. #4
    gnm109 Guest

    Default

    Personally, I would stay away from anything like a round-column Mill-Drill. Without generalizing too awfully much, they have a tendency to move under a heavy cut. Furthermore, they are constantly out of tram when attempting to change height.

    Stainless is demanding stuff for a precision cut such as a 1911 frame, or any gun part for that matter. Such work demands great rigidity in a machine which usually means more weight.

    My preference for gun work would include at the very least a moveable knee so that the head would not need to be re-trammed each time it's moved. It's very difficult to get the rigidity and repeatability that good mill work requires in a bench-top machine. It can be done but it requires a great deal more work.

    By way of establishing my credentials to make such statements, I owned an H.F. Round Column Mill Drill for nearly ten years and recently replaced it with a Taiwanese Bridgeport Clone. The difference has been a real eye-opener to me. Part of the difference is 3,500 pounds sitting on a rock-solid heavy cast-iron base versus 750 pounds on a thin metal stand.

    I know that great work can be done on machines as small as the three-in one H.F. units and even Sherline machines. Some of those have even been converted to CNC successfully. Nonetheless, I think a knee mill of some sort would be more suitable. My comments represent my own observations and my own opinion. Someone else may have a different take on this and it's fine with me.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Posts
    703

    Default

    Where are you?

    I have a Sheldon #0 Horizontal mill with a Rusnok vertical head. It takes up 2' x 2 1/2' of floorspace, wieghs about 800 lbs, and should be able to handle anything you throw at it.
    Greg

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    102

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gnm109
    Personally, I would stay away from anything like a round-column Mill-Drill. Without generalizing too awfully much, they have a tendency to move under a heavy cut. Furthermore, they are constantly out of tram when attempting to change height.

    Stainless is demanding stuff for a precision cut such as a 1911 frame, or any gun part for that matter. Such work demands great rigidity in a machine which usually means more weight.

    My preference for gun work would include at the very least a moveable knee so that the head would not need to be re-trammed each time it's moved. It's very difficult to get the rigidity and repeatability that good mill work requires in a bench-top machine. It can be done but it requires a great deal more work.

    By way of establishing my credentials to make such statements, I owned an H.F. Round Column Mill Drill for nearly ten years and recently replaced it with a Taiwanese Bridgeport Clone. The difference has been a real eye-opener to me. Part of the difference is 3,500 pounds sitting on a rock-solid heavy cast-iron base versus 750 pounds on a thin metal stand.

    I know that great work can be done on machines as small as the three-in one H.F. units and even Sherline machines. Some of those have even been converted to CNC successfully. Nonetheless, I think a knee mill of some sort would be more suitable. My comments represent my own observations and my own opinion. Someone else may have a different take on this and it's fine with me.

    I agree with looking for a moveable knee machine. I used to own a Rong Fu round column machine and it just wasn't stiff enough to do any type of precision work much less in stainless. I got an used but in good shape, Kondia mill last year and I would never consider working on a round column Chinese machine again for all the reasons stated above.

    That said, if you want a bench machine take a look at these
    http://www.ihcnc.com/pages/comparison.php They appear to be much stronger and designed with the intent of retrofitting CNC.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    hattiesburg,ms
    Posts
    8

    Thumbs up milling machines

    i my opinion you can not go wrong with a tormach. i own one and would buy another one without hesitation. just my 2 cents.
    robert williams
    hattiesburg,ms

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    2

    Default Which Milling Machine ?

    Y'all realize that all benchtop machines are NOT created equal , doncha ? The RF45 I referenced a few replies up is a dovetail column machine , and is capable of the same precision as a knee mill . I just received a pair of 3/4" extra long end mills , with the intent of using them to cut the mag well in an AR forged lower blank ...
    This type mill is also a good candidate for CNC conversion , using either the existing acme screws or mounting ballscrews . I'll get there someday , as the budget allows . Right now it's all I can afford to DRO one axis at a time .

    Snag
    wannabe machinist

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Babbit MN
    Posts
    597

    Default Milling machine

    For whatever its worth, I bought a WT 6X26 mill two years ago and it has done everything I have asked of it. Of course a larger, more expensive, heavier machine would be better but the 6X26 is very capable.
    I have not machined a 1911 frame but have no doubt that it would do the job.
    I have built many guns or parts for guns using the 6X26 mill and my 1946 Logan lathe.
    I think the key is to have a knee type machine at best and a square column machine at least.
    Bill
    By the way, I posted a question about twist steel barrels a few days ago and the post disappeared.
    Are twist steel barrels a forbiden subject??????
    Last edited by Seastar; 08-15-2009 at 10:11 AM.
    I cut it off twice and it's still too short!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    gettysburg pa.
    Posts
    708

    Default

    i was thinking of one of those mill drills,about 15 years ago. a friend found me a clausing 8520 i used that for many years still have it i also have a enco b-p clone. i ran the toolroom at one place that had 2 mill drills on the floor for drilling and tapping and lite milling i came to one conclusion they do not do either mill or drill well. you spend more time setting up and changing belts then you do using it.

    spend the money up front and get a knee mill of any size you can the bigger the better. the 6x26 are good if you have a small shop and it is hard to get machinery into. enco has a 2/3 size b-p clone that is heaver if you have the room and the way to move it.

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